This week’s post was written by Valerie, one of our techs. She decided to share some of her knowledge on a popular, common breed of dog in our practice. It’s a subject she knows a lot about thanks to her many years of breeding and raising puppies. Here’s what she has to say about Labrador Retrievers:
Labrador Retrievers are one of the best family and working breeds there is, in my opinion. There are few animals that are as lovable as a dog, and few dogs that are as lovable as a Lab. A first-class retriever has a joyful personality, gentle nature, and good looks to boot. Labs are our faithful companions and assistants, bringing laughter, comfort, and courage.
The first year of a Lab’s life is the most important, and having the traits hat a lab has, keeping a healthy, happy, and well-mannered Lab puppy is very important. This actually begins with the mother passing on traits to her litters.
A breeder working with and taking care of the puppies from day one helps with a well-adjusted transition when a new owner takes a puppy home. [Dr.H notes: Puppies are most easily socialized from 3-12 weeks. New experiences are accepted without fear during this period, after which it’s much harder to make ‘new’ be a comfortable experience.]
To help with the transition in a new home, an owner should have something that can be taken home with the litter’s scent on it. This provides something familiar for the puppy. There is a calming pheromone spray/diffuser that can be used. A chew treat that has natural calming effects can be given daily as well. Keeping a puppy on a schedule helps support a calm, happy transition and makes it easier to start training.
Training basics can be started at home. Simple things like sit and stay are easy to teach. Using a treat or praise for a reward helps. Housebreaking is also very important. Keeping to a set schedule helps the puppy learn when and where to go to the bathroom. Training should continue through the whole first year of life. Having a trainer come to the house or going to obedience classes is a great idea.
As a Lab puppy ages, they need to be able to chew as an activity and to help them lose their baby teeth. Choosing the correct type of chew toy is very important. Avoid anything with string or parts that can be ingested. Our favorite toy is a Kong for puppies (large breed). Not many puppies will turn down a Kong with a treat placed inside it! Nylabones are also good. Just make sure the package says they are digestible. [Dr.H notes: ALL pets should be observed while chewing as a safety precaution.]
Labrador Retriever and lab mix puppies can be a best friend, a loyal family member and assistant when they have a good, healthy, and well-rounded first year.
A final note from Dr.H: Valerie could have written a twenty page essay on caring for a puppy during the first year. I asked her to just touch on a few topics that she felt were the most important for owners to know about so that we didn’t give you a massive homework assignment to read through on a Sunday. Please contact us with questions or requests for resources to help you through that first year. There’s so much to learn!!